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By Carol Stiffler

It had been 7 months and 19 days since Luce County lost someone to COVID, but the county suddenly added two deaths on January 16, 2022.

Names of the deceased were not released.

Though the deaths came about a month after the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was discovered in the Upper Peninsula, health department sources said the patients may have been sick with the Delta variant.

None of the individuals who died of COVID in Luce County were vaccinated, according to the LMAS District Health Department.

Though the Omicron variant has been known to have a higher breakthrough infection rate in vaccinated people than other variants, it is still proving to be effective at keeping people out of the hospital, out of the ICU, and alive.

“We would surely love to have more people get immunized in the area,” said Dr. James Terrian, LMAS director. “We frankly have run out of ideas of how to persuade people about that.”

Though the now-prevalent Omicron variant has been widely described as milder than previous variants, it still causes the full range of results from asymptomatic to mild symptoms, all the way to severe illness and death. As of Monday, January 24, the United States was averaging 690,448 new cases per day and 2,182 deaths a day, according to information published in The New York Times.

In comparison to cancer, COVID is currently killing more people per day. According to cancer.gov, an average of 1,667 people were expected to die of cancer each day in the United States in 2021.

Still, World Health Organization officials announced Monday that the Omicron variant, which has passed its peak in the U.S., could bring to an end the “emergency phase” of the pandemic. A new phase of “normalcy” could follow, and California legislators have already begun introducing measures that would treat COVID like measles and whooping cough.

It’s too soon to say Omicron has peaked in the U.P. The most recent data released by the state of Michigan shows new cases in several U.P. counties, including Luce, are higher than they’ve ever been before.

Dr. Terrian indicated that testing for Omicron is a little trickier than for other variants.

“If you start getting symptoms or think you’ve been around somebody with COVID now, rather than waiting 5-10 days to get tested, get tested in 2-3 days,” he said. “The possibility that a test might be negative if you have Omicron goes up because the number of viral particles might be less depending on which day you happen to get the specimen. If you still have symptoms and get a negative test, get another test just to be sure.”

Stat that:
Luce County had its first COVID death: Jan. 24, 2021
Second: April 24, 2021
Third: May 11, 2021
Fourth: May 20, 2021
Fifth: May 28, 2021
Sixth and seventh: Jan. 16, 2022